Monday, February 8, 2010

Mike LeDonne: Live Review From Smoke, NYC

Mike LeDonne (piano; b. 1956)
Live At Smoke, New York City (2.6.2010)

Mike LeDonne is a highly accomplished and well regarded pianist - His performances both on record and live are pure and entertaining. With a gentle and sophisticated post bop style, Mike LeDonne is definitely a disciple of such greats as Harold Mabern, Jaki Byard and Oscar Peterson.

With over 12 albums as leader, LeDonne has worked with a wide array of musicians including Dizzy Gillespie, Joshua Redman, Ryan Kisor, Christian McBride, Jimmy Cobb, Eric Alexander and the list goes on. LeDonne also spent time in the Milt Jackson Quartet in the late '80s and soon became the group;s primary songwriter in the latter years of Jackson's career. Mike has been a mainstay on the New York jazz scene since the late '90s.

He has had a small but revolving quartet, quintet and sextets for years. His most recent quintet includes; Eric Alexander (sax), Jeremy Pelt (trumpet), John Weber (bass) and Joe Farnsworth (drums). It's no surprise 3/5 of this quintet consists of members from the fiery sextet, One For All(Alexander, Weber and Farnsworth), which makes the current CD, FiveLive (Savant Records), recorded at the legendary Smoke Jazz Club on the Upper West Side of Manhattan even more exciting.

I was one of the lucky 60 plus people jammed comfortably into this iconic little room to hear a wonderful and sometimes smokin first set from LeDonne's quintet. The evening shifted mainly between LeDonne's own material, including his feisty tribute to fellow Smoke visitor and performer, Harold Mabern entitled "Hands," as well as a wonderful rendition of the classic "I Should Care". With the addition of Eric Alexander and Jeremy Pelt driving home the intensity of the night's proceedings, everyone was in for a stellar hour of jazz.

The balance between the members wasn't just between the leader and his horn section but the rhythm section of Weber and Farnsworth were just as vital. They created a pulsating atmosphere which allowed each member there an opportunity to express some crafty solo work, especially Farnsworth who is a fantastic drummer and in my opinion, highly underrated.

Definitely an enjoyable evening for Jazz lovers, but for those who couldn't be there or may not have a chance to see Mike LeDonne, I would suggest picking up his latest which is the perfect prescription for "not being there"--FiveLive (Live At Smoke Jazz Club) (Savant Records). Looking to discover something new and definitely entertaining--get yer ears into Mike LeDonne.

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